Update or Expunge an FBI Record FAQ
Q. What is an FBI record?
A. An FBI Identification Record (i.e., the Interstate Identification Index, or III), also commonly called a Criminal History Record or Rap Sheet, is a record of certain information taken from fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization or military service. For a more detailed discussion on updating and expunging FBI records, please visit the Update or Expunge an FBI Arrest-Fingerprint Record page.
Q. What does the FBI record show?
A. If the fingerprints are related to an arrest, the FBI Identification Record might include the name of the law enforcement agency (e.g., police department) that submitted the fingerprints to the FBI, the date of arrest, the arrest charge, the court name, and the final disposition of the case, but only if known to the FBI at the time the record was created, which is highly unlikely for the final case disposition.
Q. How is an FBI record created?
A. All arrest data included in an FBI Identification Record is obtained from fingerprint submissions, disposition reports and other reports submitted by agencies having criminal justice responsibilities.
Q. Which agency in Massachusetts submits the information to the FBI?
A. In Massachusetts, the law enforcement agency that provides this information to the FBI is the Massachusetts State Police, who submits your fingerprints and information as taken by town, city, municipal or state police during the booking process of an arrest.
Q. What is the final disposition of the case?
A. The disposition of an arrest is simply the final outcome of the court process. It is whether you were ultimately found guilty or not guilty and acquitted, the case dismissed or disposed of by way of a nolle prosequi, and if you were incarcerated.
Q. Why is the final disposition not shown on a typical FBI record?
A. The final case disposition is rarely listed in the FBI Identification Record for the obvious reason, and that is because the fingerprints are taken during the booking process at the police station, processed by the Massachusetts State Police Identification Section shortly thereafter, and then submitted to the FBI well before the final court disposition occurs.
Q. How is the FBI record different from the state CORI?
A. In stark contrast to your state CORI, which is a record of case disposition and court procedure that is entered by a court’s Probation Department, maintained by the Office of the Commissioner of Probation (“OCP”) and disseminated by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (“DCJIS”), your FBI Identification Record is essentially an arrest and fingerprint record maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) and disseminated by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (“CJIS”) division. Therefore, the FBI Identification Record typically identifies the arresting police department, court name, date of arrest and criminal charge but, unlike the state CORI, not the case disposition (i.e., the final outcome) because it does not track the state court case.
Q. Can you seal or expunge an FBI record?
A. Maybe. Unlike the state CORI that is governed by criminal statutes specific to both the sealing and expunging of criminal records under the Massachusetts General Laws, there are no corresponding federal laws specific to the sealing or expunging of FBI Identification Records under the United States Code (“U.S.C”). It is therefore incumbent for the state and FBI to agree upon and implement specifications to facilitate this process. Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 276, §100T, the state should now automatically request that the FBI expunge your FBI Identification Record if your corresponding state record (CORI) is successfully expunged. However, this automatic expunging of the FBI Identification Record might not necessarily apply retroactively to the enactment or implementation of §100T so you should consult an attorney in this regard. For some time now, this state and the FBI have also been negotiating specifications and working on a process to potentially seal your FBI Identification Record if your corresponding state record (CORI) gets sealed, but there has been no resolution as of the time of the publication of this FAQ and it is therefore subject to future update. Some states outside of Massachusetts permit the sealing or expunging of the FBI Identification Records for arrest occurring in their state if certain conditions are met. If you were the subject of an out-of-state arrest you should consult an attorney.
Q. Why update an FBI record?
A. As discussed in the immediately preceding FAQ, your FBI Identification Record can only be expunged or sealed in limited instances. Therefore, if you received a favorable final case disposition such as a not guilty, dismissal, or nolle prosequi, you will certainly want it to be updated to be accurately indicated on the FBI Identification Record for the obvious reason; that is, to show that you received a favorable disposition so that whoever performs an FBI background check won’t otherwise draw an unfair adverse inference against you that is derived from an incomplete FBI Identification Record. Having the final court disposition listed on your FBI Identification Record will also provide positive proof that your case was closed and is not still open and pending. Your FBI Identification Record should always be updated in the case of an incomplete favorable entry. For a more detailed discussion on updating and expunging your FBI record, please visit the Update or Expunge an FBI Arrest-Fingerprint Record page.
Q. Why correct an FBI record?
A. The FBI record should similarly be challenged in the case of a potentially harmful erroneous entry. For example, criminal charges are oftentimes amended and reduced during the criminal process, and you will certainly want the lesser criminal charge indicated on your FBI Identification Record as opposed to the original and far more serious and damaging criminal charge that was originally documented.